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Steamed Mussels with Aromatic Vegetables
Note: Mussels are extremely perishable and should never be kept for more than a day before serving. Buy only mussels with the shells tightly closed. Test the mussels for freshness by lightly tapping the shell; the mussel should open slightly if it is alive and have a slightly sweet-briny aroma (never fishy). After purchasing, rinse the mussels and store them on ice in the refrigerator, covered with a damp towel. Before steaming the mussels, scrape off the beards protruding from the shell and scrub with a vegetable brush under cold running water for three minutes. Always buy cultivated mussels from a reliable source; if in doubt, ask to see the packaging tag. Another good pointer when buying any seafood is to check the temperature in the display case. The safe zone is between 33 and 40 degrees. Any reputable fishmonger will display a thermometer prominently in the refrigerator. Most important of all, if you detect a noticeable fishy odor when entering your fish market, find another source for seafood.
In large kettle or deep saute pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, fennel, and carrot and cook until the onion and fennel are translucent. Add the shallot and cook another 30 seconds. Add the parsley, bay leaf, and mussels; stir to incorporate the ingredients. Add the wine; stir again. Cover the pan tightly and raise the heat to high. Let the mussels steam for 4 minutes. Uncover the pan and discard any mussels that haven't opened. Divide the mussels between 4 warmed serving bowls and pour some of the poaching liqueur over each, being careful not to use the last liquid at the bottom of the pan, which may contain some sand. Serve with crusty rounds of French or Italian bread for dipping in the sauce.
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